Friday, September 24, 2010

Maybe not the answer you were looking for

-Ugh, Mondays. Can't we just fast forward to the weekend?



-Yes, we can "fast forward" to the weekend. Using an unholy machine built with reckless abandon for the laws of nature, or failing that an ancient deity who's very name warps the dimensions of this reality, we can corrupt all the temporal space between now and Friday at 5PM. Doing so will extract an unfathomable amount of the finite energy, leaving us in a threadbare universe that seems poisoned to its core. Humanity will shamble about, forever certain that something is wrong but too drained of life force to recognize the change, let alone foolishly attempt to fix it.

But then maybe I'm taking you too literally. Since the names of our days and the length of a week are mostly arbitrary, we could just "fast forward" by collectively declaring today "Friday," so that the weekend would begin immediately. Of course, all human industry and endeavors rest soundly on widely accepted standards of time, so throwing out the better part of a work week would have devastating consequences for economies world wide. The monetary and employment repercussions would likely be felt for generations.

So yeah, we could jump ahead to Friday, if that would make you happy. Just decide what you're more comfortable with: destroying our already delicate economic systems or leaving everything that will ever be to float in a sea of un-time.

Oh, and in either case, the ultimate punchline is that you won't be any happier. With nothing but leisure time, you'll drift about without purpose, unable to appreciate free time with no work to give it value.

-Why aren't you normal?

-No idea.*

*Seriously, none.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What you actually need to know about working in IT support

1. Never set up a client's computer without getting them to decide where they want everything. No matter how logical you think a setup is, the client will invariably want it arranged a completely different way. 
2. Always carry a keyboard, hard drive, or pci device with you when you walk around the building. It's a simple way to communicate the message, "I'm very busy working with things you don't understand, no matter how many computer game boxes you may occasionally see on my desk."

3. Always face your monitors away from the door, so no one see you slacking off with a computer game.*

4. Never let you office get completely cleared of spare equipment. Once it's empty, people will begin dropping off their old stuff and your office will fill right back up. Spread things out so that there's just enough space to move around, and no one can use you as a junkyard.

5. Always have ear buds and something to listen to. You're going to spend a certain amount of time in people's offices, and if you have to listen to them chatting up co-workers about how they don't like Mondays, they wish it was the weekend, and what they may or may not do for dinner, you will go crazy.

6. Always write your blog posts on company time.

*Not that I've ever done this. Ever.

Friday, September 10, 2010


A lot of education is disposing of the "magic" of things.

When we look at a vast field of study that we don't understand, our natural reaction is to treat it as un-understandable—so great and complex that it might as well be arcane in nature. You hear a scientist giving a lecture, you shake your head at terms and concepts you don't get. You watch a martial artist break a board, and without an understanding of the technique (and the relatively low strength of pine when pressure is applied that way) it seems like he's done the impossible. You read a book, you wonder where the author gets his ideas.

So when you teach, you work to convince the student that there is no "magic," that even very complex ideas can be grasped, wrangled, and tamed. In effect, all teachers teach their students the same thing: how very much we are all capable of.

The problem with teaching people about computers, though, is that (as much as I hate to admit it) they actually have a lot in common with magic.

Where else but in computer code do words have such immediate power? A web address might as well be "abracadabra" or "lumos" for all that it can bring you. But since, on a low level, all the words are translated into numbers, perhaps we're really talking about arithmancy.* I imagine Professor Vector of Hogwarts would have done just as well at MIT, had she chosen that path. And since computers are so literal, so bound by the code that runs them, they can wait for a thousand years, a latter day Sphinx, for the right response.

*No wonder gesture-based controls keep getting explored. We feel like we should be using wands.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Moratorium

A few things that we need to put an end to in media:*

Things named Pandora - We need to cut this one off right now. It was bad enough when Splinter Cell came up with its ridiculous sequel title, but now it's also in Avatar, in Borderlands, and also an internet music service. It's been done guys, you're not clever by naming something Pandora. Not everything can unleash all the evils of mankind, sorry.

Greek Letters - Hey, you learned something from being in a fraternity! Awesome. Guess what? People have been using those for a really long time. And I mean a really long time. You have been preempted by math. But I'll give you a free pass on "alpha" and "delta," since those can be in reference to a phonetic alphabet. Oh, that reminds me, you've also been preempted by the word "alphabet."

Plots to kill all the world leaders - Why does every supervillian think this will "throw the world into chaos"? Do all the nations of the world have absolutely no contingency plans for the loss of their leaders? I feel pretty confident that most political structures of any complexity aren't relying on a single "keystone" human life.

Plots that will "Unite the World" - It's great that you want to make your villain sympathetic, but can't you do better than "I only did it to unite Earth"? I've got news for you, bad crap happens all the time, and the world doesn't unite. There's no uniting at all. We just keep on fighting.

*Also, blog posts that are just lists of thing. That has to stop.